What Goes in the Green Bin?
Almost 50 per cent of household waste (by weight) is organic material. The City’s Green Bin program helps keep waste out of landfill by collecting and processing organics into material that can be used to create nutrient-rich compost used to feed and nourish soil. The City collects organics from approximately 460,000 houses, as well as apartment and condo buildings, schools and City-owned buildings.
The City has installed Green Bins for organic waste in all Dog Off-Leash Areas in parks across the city. In parks that do not have a Green Bin, residents are encouraged to dispose of organic waste in garbage bins.
Important Information About Compostable and Biodegradable Items
The City does not accept the following items marketed or labelled as compostable or biodegradable in its Green Bin organics program:
- non-fibre containers/packaging
- coffee pods
- coffee cups
These items, which may be made of or lined with a bio-based plastic, must be disposed of in the garbage. Alternatively, products can be returned to retailers/manufacturers who have take-back programs.
The City commissioned research related to disposal of single-serve coffee and tea pods. The findings include feedback from Toronto residents about use, attitudes and disposal behaviours.
Why the City doesn’t accept these items in the Green Bin
What goes in the Green Bin is very important as the organic material is used to create high-quality compost that can be used to feed and nourish soil. The Green Bin program was designed primarily to handle food waste as well as some fibre/paper products (e.g. paper napkins). It was not designed to process packaging.
Instead of traditional composting, the City uses anaerobic digestion technology to process Green Bin waste. Before organic material goes into the anaerobic digesters, it goes through a pre-processing phase to remove any contamination. In this phase, anything that behaves like a plastic, regardless of what it is made of, is removed and sent to landfill. Bio-based plastics, like compostable plastic bags and cutlery, require specific conditions to break down and do not break down before or during the pre-processing phase.
Why the City uses anaerobic digestion to process organics
There are many benefits to using anaerobic digestion to process organics. The City chose anaerobic digestion because it:
- produces nutrient-rich digester solids that can be turned into high-quality compost
- reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of organic waste processing by allowing the biogas generated to be captured and burned off so that methane doesn’t escape into the atmosphere
- provides an opportunity to create green energy by upgrading biogas into renewable natural gas
- makes participation in the Green Bin program easier by allowing residents to put organics in regular plastic bags that can be removed in the pre-processing stage versus having to buy and use compostable bags
- minimizes odours allowing the City to process organics within city limits in a controlled facility.
Learn more about what happens to organics once they are picked up at the curb.
Green Bin Tips
- Line your kitchen catcher or Green Bin (not both) with any plastic bag (e.g. grocery, milk, produce). It does not have to be compostable
- Twist or loosely tie the plastic bag (no twist ties)
- Take food items out of their plastic bags/wrap, as too much plastic results in lower quality compost
- Check your collection calendar or Waste Wizard to see if packaging is recyclable
- To prevent odours, wash kitchen catchers and Green Bins frequently (both can be cleaned with dish soap.
- Kitchen catchers are available at selected retailers and Community Environment Day events
- For new, additional or replacement Green Bins for houses, contact 311
Items Accepted in the Green Bin
- Fruits, vegetables
- Meat, poultry, fish products (including bones)
- Pasta, bread, cereals, rice
- Dairy products, eggs and shells
- Cake, cookies, candy, nuts
- Animal waste, bedding, cat litter
- House plants, including soil
- Coffee grounds/filters, tea bags
- Diapers, sanitary products
- Soiled paper such as food packaging, ice cream containers, popcorn, flour and sugar bags
- Soiled tissues, napkins, paper towels (unless they have been used with chemicals/cleaning supplies)
Items Not Accepted in the Green Bin
- Plastic bags (soft and stretchy)
- Aluminum pie plates, trays, roasting pans
- Foam polystyrene meat trays (liners are garbage)
- Plastic food containers and cutlery (black and compostable plastic is garbage)
- Hot drink cups
- Plastic food wrap (stretchy)
- Aluminum foil wrap
- Chopsticks, popsicle sticks, toothpicks
- Dryer sheets, baby wipes, make-up pads, dental floss, cotton tipped swabs, cotton balls
- Hair, pet fur, feathers, wax, cigarette butts, wine corks, vacuum bags/contents, fireplace and BBQ ashes, gum
- Medical waste: cloth and plastic bandages, gauze, intravenous, catheter/colostomy bags and tubes
- Pieces of wood
Turning Green Bin Waste into Renewable Natural Gas
To process Green Bin organic waste, the City uses anaerobic digestion, which generates a by-product called biogas. In 2019, the City and Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. will begin installing equipment at the Dufferin Solid Waste Management Facility that will allow the City to turn the biogas produced into renewable natural gas (RNG) that can be used to fuel the City’s waste collection trucks